University Life in Eighteenth-Century Oxford


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Graham Midgley

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This delightful social history of academic life in eighteenth-century Oxford presents a meticulous yet entertaining account of the activities of students and dons at the university: the often inordinate eating and drinking; life in the senior common rooms; the struggles with authority; the place of women in an all-male environment; the pleasures of sauntering in a still-rural Oxford; the sports and pastimes that kept students from their books; music, theater, and the astounding variety of entertainment found in the streets: executions, political riots, and circuses that the gown as well as the town attended and relished.

Graham Midgley draws on and quotes from a rich variety of contemporary sources—newspapers, diaries, journals and memoirs, satirical pamphlets, poems, manuscripts, reports from foreign visitors, betting books, and even recipe books. He reveals the pleasures and sadnesses, the sobriety and excess, the exuberance and idleness of college and university life.

Humorous, wise, crowded with anecdote and handsomely illustrated, the book is a genial guide to a great university in a colorful era.

Graham Midgley was both a student and don at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, and is now fellow emeritus of the college.

"A most readable book, fascinating in content and distinguished in style."—John McManners, All Souls College, Oxford

"The whole thing is a feast, and hugely enjoyable."—David Fairer, University of Leeds

"This splendid book is an object lesson in how to bring history to life."—Times Educational Supplement

"In this attractive volume, well produced as ever by Yale and generously illustrated, Graham Midgley has produced a series of vignettes which convincingly give the flavour of the period. . . . A well-written book packed with interesting anecdote and evidence about one of the more colourful . . . eras in the history of Oxford. . . . An entertaining account."—Stephen Harrison, Pelican Record

"[An] engaging survey. . . . [An] entertaining chronicle of gluttony and lechery."—James Ferguson, Oxford Times

"A book that fills in [a] dreary blank in the University's history with the most entertaining gallery of characters outside a novel by Fielding."—Jane Jakeman, Oxford Today

"This is a book rich in vivid detail. . . . An attractive and illuminating set of images of the social life of the university in this period."—Jane Garnett, Urban History Newsletter

"This is a rollicking tale, well researched, well written and well intentioned. . . . It will add a lot of colour to the standard image of eighteenth-century Oxford."—Leslie Mitchell, Oxford Magazine

"Graham Midgley has produced a sprightly account of the robust social life in 18th-century Oxford and his book is that rare marvel: a short, well-written, yet scholarly work. He has brought to life the portly dons and rollicking undergraduates with a Hogarthian richness, and in so doing has illuminated a neglected era. . . . [A] delightful work."—Richard Mullen, Daily Telegraph

"Newspapers, diaries, journals and memoirs are the rich source for this delightful delve back into the 1700s and anecdotes abound. . . . Anybody who remembers the old Oxford with affection. . . will find much to enjoy in this splendid collection."—Kenneth Cox, Herald Express

"This is what a book of social history should be: sumptuous ivory leaves (Yale Press, congratulations!), relevant pictures every third of fourth page, white space embellished with numerous quotes of contemporary letters and poetry, and best of all, a rollicking good tale of student life at Oxford University two centuries ago. you will read the text with a smile on your lips and end with a keen insight into the reality of academia as it was lived out in the eighteenth-century undergraduate experience."—Alice Tobriner, History

"This is a delightful book that brings an important and sometimes amusing aspect of the eighteenth century back to life. The book is beautifully illustrated, well researched and entertaining."—Contemporary Review

"A splendid experiment of social history. . . . Utilizing a rich array of source materials, such as student journals, newspaper articles, and disciplinary records, Midgley beautifully reconstructs everyday existence in this 18th-century university town. . . . [This book is] a splendid and enjoyable read and is a needed addition to the corpus of social intellectual, and educational scholarship addressing 18th-century university life in England."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This is a well written, well researched and humorous book. It will cheer up those who teach in our universities to know that, however bad things are now, they were once worse, and however difficult students are, they were more difficult in the past."—Ralph Waller, Faith & Freedom

ISBN: 9780300197822
Publication Date: November 1, 1996
192 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
52 b/w illus.